When discussing or blogging about photographic equipment, one can often observe two extremes: one fraction tends to concentrate almost exclusively on technical features of the gear. The second group, on the other hand, likes to deny any influence of the technology and claims that the equipment wouldn’t play a role at all. I’ve never been able to get anything out of both opinions. Nevertheless, the right tools were always very important for my work. Although maybe not only for the very obvious reasons…
Before I continue, I probably should make one thing clear: I didn’t choose Fujifilm because of the image quality. Not that it isn’t good, quite the opposite! However, that’s more or less the case with all modern camera systems today. In contrast, my key point is that I don’t just put emphasis on the (technical) image quality, I care far more about the quality of making the image. And in this area Fujifilm is – at least from my very personal point of view – far ahead of most competitors. Fujifilm cares about photography. Both the X and GFX systems bear witness to this. I notice that every day when I pick up the cameras and just feel ‘at home’.
Oskar Barnack has changed photography significantly and forever just because he has developed a completely new camera concept. It was small enough to be taken anywhere and at the same time good enough for serious work. In many ways, this development reminds me of the introduction of the X system – albeit at a less revolutionary level of course. It would probably be too much to ask for such big steps nowadays. From a technological point of view, photography is simply too mature for that. But even today the equipment has its role in the game. It may not be the preventing power for an otherwise creative mind – this one will somehow assert itself even with a Holga or any other kind of camera. But it plays a role in the question of how it lets us see the world and how much we like to pick it up, go out and make pictures with it.
I tend very strongly to the opinion that Fujifilm has hit the nail on the head here. Like many others, my experience with the Fujifilm system began pretty much eight years ago with the introduction of the original X100. While it was still far from being perfect in handling, it showed to me how fantastic it could be to walk on the streets with a comparatively tiny and mirrorless camera and yet achieve excellent results. In those days, I still combined the X100 with a full-format DSLR. Relatively short time later I was so convinced of the mirrorless concept that I exchanged the DSLR for an m43 equipment. Although both systems weren’t bad in any way, they didn’t really satisfy my new demands and my vision of a perfect system.
When Fujifilm came around the corner with the X-Pro1 and started to develop a new system with apparently wonderful lenses, I was very close to switching. But since I didn’t like the first version of this camera for several reasons, it took me another four years until I finally decided to concentrate on only one system in the future. A decision I have never regretted and never looked back again.
My main points of interest always were the usability (the pragmatic point) and the fun (the emotional point) I can derive out of working with a special system. My bar has become very high in this area over the years. As I’ve variously written elsewhere – but can’t repeat often enough: For me, the Fujifilm X-Pro2 – especially combined with some of the faster or smaller Fujinon primes – has been the ultimate plus ultra in terms of usability for the last 2.5 years now. It was a game changer and far more than just a useful tool. It’s the perfect symbiosis of good and sexy. Period. (Thanks, by the way, to the movie ‘Crazy, Stupid, Love.’ for borrowing this phrase to me.)
Anyway, the camera was just one piece of the puzzle in that decision. Apart from the idea to add another very versatile DSLR-like camera to the system with the X-T2 (and now with the even better X-T3), it was and is the lenses that I love so much. At that time, none of the other mirrorless systems has even begun to develop and market exactly the lenses I wanted – and especially not in such a short time. I know that some photographers with other interests will see it differently, but for me the lens range of the Fujifilm X system is almost perfect – unfortunately. That’s one of the reasons I own far too many of these.
The mere fact that lenses such as 16mm F1.4, 23mm F1.4, 35mm F1.4 and 56mm F1.2 were already available relatively soon after the introduction of the new system simply testifies to the knowledge of users’ photographic needs. And the fact that all these lenses are both optically and mechanically awesome and at the same time acceptable in size and weight makes the icing on the cake for me. That’s a really important point and makes the difference.
Any new system must be able to measure itself against this – regardless of whether it is cheaper or more expensive, smaller or even larger and therefore not actually comparable due to its format. I don’t care about fair comparability, I just want to know if that camera or that system would give me advantages in any area, which I don’t have to dearly buy at the same time with big disadvantages. It’s that simple sometimes. At the end of the day you have to choose the camera and the system that ticks the most boxes for you.
At first glance, photography is all about light, composition and the right moment – in this combination a photo is able to transport the emotions of a place or a moment like hardly any other medium – except maybe music. This can of course be done with any camera, not least with a smartphone, which in my opinion is the most important camera in the world by the way. Simply because it’s relevant.
However, it cannot be done with every system in the same good way. Fujifilm has given me the tools I need to do what I want while having a lot of fun and inspiration. What more can you ask for? And it even recently made me start my journey into the digital medium format – but that’s a completely different story.
There is always light somewhere – so go out and shoot!