If you scroll back to April or so in this blog you will see an article I wrote that I was selling my Nikon DSLR system and completing my move to Micro Four Thirds which I had been using for most of my personal pictures for about three years. I was only using the Nikon DSLR gear for paid work. The reason was pretty simple. It came down to economics. It wasn’t a “DSLR’s are dead” thought process. It was an “I have way too much money tied up in camera gear” decision. I was getting far too caught up in the gear rather than the pictures. I didn't want to keep two systems, one for personal and one for paid work. I had thousands of dollars of “just in case this ever comes up” gear. Micro Four Thirds had gotten good enough for paid work and I had other places in my family that I could use all the money I had tied up in Nikon. I just could never be bothered to carry around a DSLR for my day to day photography. Well, like a dumbass, about half way through this process I bought a Fuji X100s. It was love. I sold all the Nikon gear; I sold all the Micro Four Thirds gear and bought a Fuji X-Pro1 and an XE-1 as a back up. I bought a pretty full set of lenses and am just waiting on the 56mm F1.2 Portrait lens to finish out my kit. This type of move will not make sense for some people. If you shoot sports or wildlife this is probably not the move you are going to make. If like me, you shoot portraits, family, vacation and just day to day life it might just be an option. I now have one system that I used for all my personal photography and paying jobs.
What were my biggest fears in the move? The first was continuous autofocus. In fact that was one of the big two that kept me from moving to Micro Four Thirds earlier and it is still a challenge. The problem was, I was keeping thousands of dollars worth of Nikon gear for the few times I really needed it. I evaluated how and what I shoot and decided that at best, the what if scenarios make up a very small portion of my photography. How often do I really go to the racetrack and shoot motorsports and is it just for fun or are the pictures really important to me? Mostly I use my cameras continuous AF for kids and more candid shots during family portrait sessions where the family members may be interacting with each other. What I have found is there are still times that I miss solid continuous AF but it is not as often as I thought it would be. That being said, I don't miss it enough to tie up thousands of dollars in DSLR bodies and lenses. I tend to work around it by pre focusing or using smaller apertures in order to give myself a little wiggle room in terms of DOF. Just recently the XE-2 was announced and it looks like it improves continuous AF enough to be useful but is still pretty far away from current pro and prosumer DSLR's. In the end it would be nice to have, but I can certainly make due without it. I will probably upgrade my XE-1 to an XE-2 and hope that adds the ability to take some shots of moving kids or of a couple walking towards me while I fire off some frames. Early indications are it should be good enough for that use case. If it is then I have no more concerns. I am not in Africa shooting Cheetahs....
The second big fear was giving up my beloved Nikon Speedlights with TTL and High Speed Sync. At $550 a pop and $1000 in Pocket Wizard Flex/mini triggers for four speedlights I could have easily bought a couple of high power studio strobes. I loved High Speed Sync though. Being able to shoot outside in the middle of the day wide open turning day into night was pretty cool. My other issue was I learned to shoot mostly using TTL. I was afraid to go full manual. I would have to manually adjust each light. I would have to do a little more trial and error to get in the ballpark when I first set up. Moving and using flash for bounce at an event would be more difficult etc. What I found is I like shooting in full manual a lot more than I thought I would. I never realized how inconsistent TTL could be from shot to shot. The metering can change pretty dramatically just by changing the camera angle a little bit. Once I got a few shoots under my belt in manual only, I really don't miss TTL. As for shooting events I have taken to a different approach altogether. For indoor events I tend to just set the strobes up in various corners, set my ambient for a half a stop to a full stop underexposed, then just test to get a proper exposure in that area of the room with the flash bounced into the wall and ceiling. I use a Phottix Stratos trigger system which does have zones. I then just turn on the flashes I need depending on where I am in the room and the angle I am shooting at. Once you get it setup it is set it and forget it. For outside events I will probably get one Fuji TTL flash that I can use on camera or with a short cable. What about High Speed Sync? I have been trying to schedule my sessions either earlier or later in the day. I can still gang a few speedlights together for lots of power and use a vari ND filter to be able to control too much ambient for sync speed. At some point I may buy an Einstein but for now I have found this works fine. The best news for me is now that I have moved to all manual Yongnuo 560 III's I have saved a ton of money and have now gotten rid of the fear of shooting all manual. If I ever decide to switch systems again the lights carry over. That completely eliminates one of my two big fears of switching. Technology improvements will eliminate the first (fast and continuous AF).
The Good: The Fuji system is a system for photographers that want to get back to the basics of camera control. It was like an epiphany to pick up the X100s and have all the dials and controls right where they used to be (and in my opinion where they are supposed to be). Moving between a Nikon DSLR, an Olympus OMD and a Panasonic GX1 was like moving between cars that had all the basic controls in different places. When we learn to drive we learn that the gas is on the right, the break on the left (or middle if you have a clutch) and you steer with your hands and a wheel. Modern cameras got away from the basic control design that had worked for years. I guess if i had only shot with a single system it would have become second nature to control each of these cameras with non traditional schemes, but the reality is I have always used different cameras for different things. I would love to see the industry move back to a more traditional control scheme for the three major controls of aperture, shutter speed and exposure compensation. Sure you can put the radio and the air conditioner buttons wherever you want. I will adapt, but please don't move the brake and the gas.
The build and feel of the cameras are spot on. That however, I guess is a personal choice. It may not be for everyone. I really like the rangefinder aesthetic, and quite frankly I have found people react very differently to one of the Fuji cameras then they do to a big DSLR. I don't do a lot of events but last year I did a wedding reception with my Nikon D600. My go to lens for the evening was the 24-70 2.8. When i walked around the room with that set up and pointed it at somebody it was like I was Jacklighting deer. People see that bazooka pointed at them and freeze in their tracks. It is very intimidating. Last week I shot at another after wedding party with my Fuji XE-1 and the 18-55. What a difference. I was just one of the crowd snapping a few pictures. Nobody seemed to notice or care. It’s a funny thing. This is not really a technical issue but it can have a profound effect on the images you make in these types of situations.