In the fall of 2018, I decided I needed a change within my gear bag. I had been shooting digital work mostly with Nikon systems over the prior decade, but, like many other stories of Fuji shooters, the X100 series started luring me away in 2015. I picked up an X100S in the summer and brought that camera on backpacking trips, through the Caribbean, and all around the streets of Boston and New York. For someone who loves the slower experience of shooting film with my trusty M6, the X100S gave me this feeling like I was working with a tool and not a big piece of digital technology that seemed to force me to compromise between lenses or clothes in my bag while traveling. My reason for wanting to switch was straightforward: I wanted a simpler shooting experience and set up, and I loved the handling of Fuji cameras. I mostly kept a 35mm or 50mm prime lens glued to my Nikon, so the f/2 WR group of primes had my attention, since I frequently travel through places requiring solid weather sealing.
In 2018, I jumped on one of the promos Fuji had going shortly after the release of the X-T3 and bought the camera, battery grip, and my first group of lenses: the 23mm f/2 and 50mm f/2. I had a personal revelation at the end of that year, realizing these two tiny lenses could do the majority of what I did with my bulky Nikon set up, since I don’t typically shoot very wide and only really swap out my 35mm focal length when shooting individual portraits. Eventually, I swapped out the remaining Nikon gear for an X-H1, which I now use for video work and larger primes like the 90mm f/2.
With an entire year of frequent travel and work behind me, I wanted to sit down and reflect on how this camera held up as I put it through a range of extremes, from shooting the northern lights in the middle of winter in Norway to hot, dusty days in the Sonoran desert. As far as weather conditions were concerned, the camera held up without any issues. I’ve unintentionally been pretty soaked while caught in rain and snow storms, and the X-T3 has not skipped a beat. One of my biggest hesitations before making this switch was battery life, since I could often manage to charge up two single batteries and get through an entire week of travel with my Nikons. I found with my style of shooting that I could manage to go two days on a full charge with the battery grip before needing to recharge—that may be the only significant compromise I’ve realized, but it’s one I am okay living with.
Having dedicated dials for the ISO, shutter speed, and exposure compensation right on top of the camera body has given me a feeling of so much more intentionality when shooting. I love holding this camera, which means I reach for it anytime I go somewhere, and I think that the simple aspect of enjoying a camera as a well crafted object is something that often gets overlooked in seas of specs. I never felt that way with any DSLR, which is not to say I didn’t enjoy shooting with some of those cameras I’ve used in the past, they just inevitably felt like a chore to pack, taking up precious weight in my backpack that would be on my shoulders for months at a time in some instances. Something I love about the X-T3 is that I can remove the battery grip for shorter trips and just throw a spare battery in my pocket, making the camera extremely small when paired with the tiny f/2 WR primes.
A lot of the magic for me in this year of photographing came from the fact that I deliberately paired down my camera set up, with only really two choices for focal lengths. The 35mm focal length is how I personally see the world and compose photographs in my head. The 50mm f/2 presented something new to me with it’s 75mm focal length equivalent. It had just a bit more reach than what I was used to using a 50mm lens on a full frame camera, and it gave just a slight amount of compression in landscapes that I loved. It felt ideal for making portraits on the streets, especially in the markets in Peru. Were there compositions I sacrificed photographing by only traveling with these two lenses? Yes. Do I somehow feel any kind of regret not having been able to photograph those things? Absolutely not. I am a firm believer in not complicating things, which means a simpler set up creates a far more enjoyable shooting experience for me personally.
While 2020 hasn’t been quite as busy as 2019 in terms of travel, I’ve still enjoyed having this camera in hand while at home, on walks down my street or daily trips to the beach. I’ve built out my library of Fuji lenses but oddly enough, I still haven’t picked up the 23mm f/1.4, and that might just be a testament to how much I love the 23mm f/2 (someday I would like to give that legendary lens a try, though). While I have a few more choices to make now in terms of lenses, I still frequently find myself packing just the 23mm f/2 and 50mm f/2 in my bag.