I have just come back from two days spent at Photokina in Cologne. I spent my time wandering around the halls, watching and playing with cameras – it’s like a photography enthusiasts dream come true! A year ago I would have been getting so excited about all the new cameras that have just been announced and were on display to play with, and I still think it’s great these new mirrorless interchangeable lens cameras are being developed by lots of different manufacturers, but I just couldn’t get myself excited about anything other than the Fujifilm X-E1. Yes, I tried them all, I played with them, but they were all just black (or white) plastic boxes that took pictures. No doubt technically amazing, new sensors getting better all the time, but they didn’t have that X-factor which would make me want to take them out and use them, nothing to excite me about photography, nothing that would make me love them. That feeling has only developed with my Fujifilm X-series cameras, I’ve just lost all interest the others out there.
Photography has always been an important part of my life, I’ve always enjoyed it ever since I bought one of my secondary school teachers Zenith SLR for £10! I studied IT for my degree, but spent most of my time out taking photos with my Nikon SLR and the evenings developing films and printing photos in my room at night! I’d love to draw or paint, but I can’t, so my creative outlet is photography. I loved using my Nikon dSLR, but a day carrying it around and you soon knew about it – not to mention looking highly conspicuous when walking the streets with it, especially in some less than safe areas abroad. I had tried several “enthusiasts” point-and-shoot cameras, which were all well and good, but compared to my dSLR they just didn’t cut the mustard and I always regretted not taking it out instead. I needed something light, but with the image quality of a dSLR. I went through several mirrorless cameras, I enjoyed my Oly PEN E-P1, a great fun camera to shoot with, but IQ was still lacking. Then I found it, the Sony NEX-5… small and with great IQ, especially in low light. I sold all of my dSLR gear to buy the NEX-5’s replacement, the NEX-5N, which had even better IQ and a lot better low-light capability then my Nikon D300s but at a fraction of the weight, I got a range of lenses – it seemed like a perfect solution.
I started this blog about a year ago after I really got into these mirrorless cameras, realising that for many people they were a better solution to the dSLR. I wanted to share my passion for these small but highly capable mirrorless interchangeable lens cameras and to let everyone know just how good they were. That they could be worthy companions, even replacements, to the larger ‘do everything’ dSLRs cameras that everyone buys by default once they progressed beyond the point-and-shoot. I thought I’d provide a one-stop shop comparison of mirrorless cameras where you could come and see which was best for your needs. As part of writing this blog I’ve gone through pretty much all of the mirrorless cameras out there, almost all the Olympus PEN range, many of the Panasonic Lumix M43 cameras, the Nikon J1 and V1, Sony NEX range, and I’ve tested and evaluated many others, NEX-7, OM-D including most of the lenses available for these cameras, and written about the ones that interested me the most. I love tech, photography for me is as much about the cool new tech involved as it is about taking the photographs, so this was a great time for me!
However, I now find myself in a new position. It all started when I saw the Fujifilm X100 announced. How I drooled when I saw it announced…how I was disappointed when I saw the price. How could I justify that much for a fixed lens camera after I’d spent most of my life buying (mostly second-hand) cameras that were flexible, allowing me to add more bits as I could afford them. This was a one shot pony, there was no way I could use it as a single camera (so I thought) I’d still have to have another camera anyway. The price stayed the same for a long time, but then it started to weaken, and all of a sudden it was available for £250 less than the original list price (as I write this, a bargain £350 less!). Reviews ranged from awful to amazing, but just about every image I saw from it blew me away… I just had to give it a go for myself! The order was placed and the next day I had a shiny new X100 in my hands. I did the usual thing, ran around the house and garden shooting anything I could. It frustrated the hell out of me when I tried to shoot photos of my young daughter, it just wouldn’t focus close up, but then I loaded the images into Lightroom and was totally in awe of this beautiful little magic black and silver retro box. To say the images from this camera are stunning is an understatement. It’s not just about the sharpness of the images, though they are very, it’s the whole way it renders them, the colours and that particular ‘look’. There is a quality to the image that I’ve just never seen in any of my other cameras – this is exactly what I had been searching for. It was quirky, the focusing issues initially drove me nuts, but I stuck with it and slowly those problems dissolved away as I got used to how to get it to do what I wanted…I loved this camera!
This wasn’t an ever-lasting love affair though. After 2000 images it started to randomly overexpose images. I soon discovered a problem with the aperture blades and sent it back to the supplier (I’d had it less than one month so opted for a refund). I still had my Olympus M43 kit and went out and bought the 12 and 45mm prime lenses and an EVF for the E-P3 as compensation. Something kept niggling at me though, I just couldn’t live without the X100 at my side, those beautifully rendered images. I bought another one…in 500 shots it developed the same problem as the first. I wasn’t happy! I decided to buy the NEX-7, pre-ordered it, then it was delayed…in the mean-time the Olympus OM-D was announced. I cancelled my NEX-7 order for that camera instead. The NEX-7 finally became available and I went into my local camera shop just to try that out, I didn’t like it. The shop had also just got the X-Pro 1 in, it looked lovely, and even though I swore I’d never buy a Fuji camera again I just had to try it, you know, just to try it! I fell in love again, but I had to temper this new-found love. It was expensive, it was Fuji! I took the SD-card home with me from the test and loaded the files up. There again were those beautiful X100-esque images staring back at me. I convinced myself that I had to have this camera and went back the next day to buy it along with the 35mm 1.4 lens. I still had all my Olympus gear…. it all went on eBay that week! I’ve subsequently bought both the 18 and 60mm lenses for the X-Pro 1, waited a while until a 2012-made model X100 came into stock and bought that as well as a second camera (the newer models no longer have the shutter issues). Yes, I just love the Fuji X-series cameras!! They have created something very unique, something with passion, you feel it was made by a company who understands photography and what a photographer wants. What I also love is that Fuji have progressively updated the firmware in these cameras, focusing issues are now mostly resolved in both cameras. Fuji actually listen to their customers and take that feedback into account when developing new firmware, and new hardware. This is quite apparent in the X-Pro 1 design over the X100, and again in the X-E1 over the X-Pro 1. It’s nice to see this in a camera manufacturer, it makes you feel like they are truly passionate about their cameras, and that you’re part of the development process, that they are making cameras for you, the photographer, and not just for a market segment.
These X-series cameras are cameras you learn to use, but they are more than that, they teach you too. They feel like a ‘real’ camera. The slightly quirkyness of the X100/X-Pro 1 makes you go back to basics, it makes you slow down and forces you to think about the photograph your taking, makes you analyse what you’re doing and they have fundamentally changed the way I take photographs, making me a much better photographer as a result. Much like that first Zenith I had, where if you touched the film winder when pressing the shutter button it would make it go out of focus! you feel these Fuji cameras (perhaps more so the X100 than the X-Pro 1) have a personality, as Zach Arias says, the X100 has ‘soul’. There is just something about them that no other digital camera has, and no other digital camera has even got close to having.
As a consequence of this new passion I’ve decided to dedicate this blog to the Fujifilm X-series cameras. I want to write about what I enjoy, and what I feel passionate about, and not get stuck in a rut of having to follow and keep up with the latest and greatest from everyone. From now on I’ll be writing mainly about the X-series cameras, any X-developments from Fuji, lenses or accessories from 3rd party manufacturers for the Fuji X-series cameras. I’ll talk about any accessories I use, bags, straps etc. that I find work well with these cameras. I’ve already written a few articles on the photography side of it, about series of images I’ve taken with the X-Pro 1 and X100, and I’ll be expanding that, spending more time on theses little photography projects – though don’t worry, there will still be plenty of articles and posts about the tech side of it as that still tickles something inside me! I won’t be completely ignoring other manufacturers and if I see something interesting it will get a mention, just not likely a full review.
I’ll be updating the website over the next few weeks to reflect this change, so keep coming back to see what’s new! Speak of new, here’s a little teaser…Fuji have kind of let it slip that most of existing and planned X-mount lenses will work fine with a full-frame sensor… [EDIT: Fuji have since denied this!]