Switching from the Nikon D800 to the Fuji X-T1

“Okay, I know this sounds crazy, but I swear I’ve thought about it a lot first.”

My words to a photographer friend a little over a week ago, before telling her I was getting rid of my Nikon D800 and DSLR gear and switching to the Fuji XT1 mirror-less system.

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What?! *tires screech to a halt*

It’s okay. The elephant is in the room. I can see it right there. Let’s talk about it.

Why?

I wanted something smaller and more travel-friendly. I also realized I had a lot of money tied up in photography gear, and realized I’d be happier shooting on an iPhone in India than on a D4 with a 70-200 at home.

I had to stop asking myself what the best gear I could afford was, and start asking myself, “What is good enough? What serves my purpose in the best way at this time?

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How?

I printed out a list at home of everything I wanted, then I went to the camera store with that list and picked it all up (except for a couple things they had to order in).

The next day I started putting together my Nikon and studio gear for sale on eBay and Kijiji.

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Despite my conviction, it was still nerve-wracking at first. Inside my head there was a voice going, “Oh I’ve made this terrible mistake and no one will ever take me seriously as a photographer now. What have I done?”

It was hard to trust the Fuji XT-1 at first because it was new and unfamiliar. I’d been through a lot with my Nikon gear, and we’d built up a certain amount of trust. I knew how far I could push it. I had NO IDEA what the Fuji was really capable of, beyond the photos I’d searched on Flickr that made me think I could give it a go.

I felt like a baby photographer with its dials – I didn’t know where the focus point controls were, I didn’t know it had to be put in macro mode in order to take advantage of the macro lens attached, and so much more.

(actually, a firmware upgrade that came out on June 29th makes you not have to press the macro button anymore, as well as improved the AF in so many sexy ways. Looks like I jumped onboard at the right time! Click here to read the full list of improvements)

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It was pretty humbling and reminded me of shoshin, a zen buddhism concept meaning ‘beginner’s mind’. You may have heard the concept phrased as ‘approach everything as a beginner’. It was nice to know nothing about a system, and it was humbling figuring it out.

The 56mm 1.2 (equivalent 85mm 1.2 on full frame) blew me away with its amazing work over the first couple days. I had never even owned a 1.2 lens before.

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Shot with the 56mm 1.2 <3

The camera also feels good to hold. This is actually very important. You need to want it in your hands at all times.

It’s weatherproof body is good to -10˚ and is made of solid, die-cast magnesium. The X-series lenses feel like a solid Zeiss construction. Arguably, they make some of my expensive Nikon lenses feel like plastic by comparison.

Despite the solid construction, the Fuji X-T1 is very light. There’s a noticeable size and weight difference when I’m carrying it around, and I feel comfortable pulling it out on the street without attracting a lot of attention. I also have intermittent back problems, so less weight means more happy for me.

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One of the things that helped me get up the guts to do move down from my 36 megapixels D800 to the 16mp Fuji was to think of all the great images I loved that I had shot with the Nikon D300s, a cropped-sensor camera with only 12 megapixels. I at least know it won’t be any worse than that, and I loved that camera. I assured myself.

It turns out, it wasn’t any worse at all. In fact, it’s pretty awesome.

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Some Good Stuff!

More lenses for less money! I picked up the 23mm 1.4 (35mm equivalent), 56mm 1.2 (85mm equivalent), and 60mm macro (90mm equivalent). Some of the lenses cost only half as much as their Nikon counterparts.

There is an option to use an electronic shutter for taking photos without the shutter click, which is great for weddings and other intimate moments where a camera sound can be intrusive. This is something I’ve never been able to do before, except on my iPhone.

AND, after all the buying and selling of old gear, I’m still going to come out on top with a few extra thousand dollars in my bank account. Hello plane tickets, so nice to see you.

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There are definitely things I’ll miss about the Nikon D800:

Dual card slots, snappier autofocus,  higher iso tolerance, the video capabilities.

…and some things I won’t miss:

The weight, the large file sizes and slower load times, the more expensive accessories and lenses.

So I’m waving a a fond farewell to gear that has served me well, and looking forward to getting to know this new system even better.

The quick and small X-T1 paired with my iPhone 6 plus for video are a dynamic duo that will help me get the shots I want published quickly and beautifully. The smaller size of the Fuji means I’m always carrying it with me, increasing my use and ultimately (hopefully) making me a better photographer.

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In Closing

I switched systems because I wanted to. Sometimes its nice to make a change. Learn a new system, take a risk.

This was the right choice for my scenario, and people can talk about the pros and cons about purchasing new and different equipment until they’re blue in the face and there’s no air left on earth (I’ve seen it – I used to work in a camera store).

This is not meant to be a comparison of all the technical minute differences between the two. There are lots of websites (like DPReview) where you can do that.

If you’re thinking of making a change in your gear, what I do recommend is not dwelling on it for too long. Think about the differences for a little while, but don’t drive yourself crazy.

When I used to work at the camera store, people would come in all the time with printouts and lists, comparing cameras’ abilities, and would slow themselves down by thinking that they had to choose the ‘perfect’ camera. They would really stress and suffer over it.

There is no such thing as the perfect camera.  It’s a wild goose chase, an objet petit a, the holy grail, a fantasy.

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Gear is such a small part of what we do.  Photography is and will always be, more about the relationship between the subject and the photographer than the gear you’re shooting with. A talented photographer will do more with an iPhone than a talentless photographer will do with the most expensive setup.

I’m really excited to have made this choice for myself, and I’m posting this in case anyone else having similar thoughts might find my anecdote useful.

Has anyone else ever made a big gear switch? Maybe something that surprised people? Please share your camera stories in the comments below.

Happy shooting,

Mel

p.s. all images in this post were taken by me with the Fuji X-T1, except the featured image. For the featured image, I took a picture of  each with the opposite camera, and then put them together in Photoshop. Tricks!

p.p.s. Fuji does not endorse me in any way, and I paid for everything myself. That being said, I would love to work with them in the future!

Categories Photography

About

Mel Hattie is an award-winning photographer and travel journalist based in Halifax. She has a Master of Journalism from the University of King's College. She appreciates a good cup of tea and extra legroom on long flights.

23 comments on “Switching from the Nikon D800 to the Fuji X-T1

  1. This is my favourite article on this blog so far. <3 BRAVERY

    • Mel Hattie

      I definitely felt a little bit like throwing up when I sold my gear – goodbye safety net!

  2. “A talented photographer will do more with an iPhone than a talentless photographer will do with the most expensive setup.”

    This. 100%.

    • Mel Hattie

      Totally. Have you seen Kevin Russ? Most of his work is done with iPhone. Seeing his stuff was one of the first things that nudged me to think, “Wow, gear is nice, but it’s really not that important for capturing a feeling. And sometimes it just gets in the way.” (Also: this was caught in my spam filter! Sorry for the late response. Learning to check the spam more often now. A few good people got caught in it!)

  3. Great post! I’m just an amateur photographer, so I’ve been curious about the professionals who give up their DSLRs for mirrorless systems. From the reviews I’ve read on mirrorless cameras, most people still keep their DSLR around, which intimidated me from ever going mirrorless. Now you’ve go me thinking….. Uh oh! I better quit that! But really, we could all do for thinking less and spending less time weighing the pros and cons.

    • Mel Hattie

      Definitely. I feel as though if I’d kept my DSLR around I would’ve just used it as a crutch, or maybe ended up hauling it around in addition to the Fuji as a ‘just in case’, which would’ve defeated the whole purpose of traveling lighter.

  4. Great post, it’s making me want to grab a Fuji myself.
    Is there a reason why you chose Fuji over the other mirrorless systems?

    • Mel Hattie

      Hi Benson! I really loved the colour in Fuji shots; it has a pretty unique sensor. When I was testing out different cameras some of the other mirrorless systems I found had a ‘plastic’-y or toy feel to them. The Fuji bodies and lenses are built solid – they almost remind me of Zeiss lenses. Their glass also sold me. 56mm(aka 85mm) 1.2? Yes please.

  5. Ann Miller

    I agree 100% with you. I switched from a Nikon D750 camera to the Fuji system and have never suffered one second of regret. The camera is always with me. I own the 23 1.4 lens, the 56 1.2 lens, the 50-140 2.8 lens, the 10-24 f4 lens, the 18-135 f 3.5-5.6 lens and the 18-55 f4 lens. I love them all. The battery grip is essential in my opinion as well as several extra batteries. Can’t say enough about how much I love this camera system.

  6. Robert Andersen

    I too am a Nikon shooter, having switched from a Pentax film camera to Nikon D40 when i finally decided to go digital. I consider myself a hobbyist, but after over 30 years of shooting slr’s, I am not so sure that ‘hobbyist’ really fit’s anymore.
    I too have given the Fuji system a serious look, for all of the same reasons that you mention. But I also dearly miss the real manual controls, including real aperture rings. Using a Nikon with it’s buttons and menu’s leaves me feeling a bit like I’ve left something important behind each time i go out shooting, not quite the same sense of involvement and satisfaction. Thank-you Fuji.

    • Mel Hattie

      Twisting Fuji’s metal aperture rings definitely gives me a sense of satisfaction. Thanks for sharing your story Robert!

  7. Just came across your blog while researching the idea of jumping off the Nikon train! Most everyone talks about leaving their D750 and D800 behind. I’m still using a D300 that I bought used, in 2009. Prior to that I used a D1X for 7 years! I have longed to upgrade, but the high price tag on newer Nikons, has really kept them out of my hands. I have only briefly read about the mirrorless cameras, until now! I am intrigued.

    I have read some mixed reviews on a lens adapter, that would allow the use of Nikon lenses. I only have one lens that I really think abòut utilizing an adapter for, so not sure the expense would be practical.

    I have some health issues, that toting a lighter camera, would certainly make life a little easier, so thank you for your review!

    • Mel Hattie

      No problem! I used to have a D300. That’s a great camera! I love, love, love the lack of weight in my kit. And the gear itself is still amazing – I’ve used it on commercial work and am a huge fan. I haven’t tried any of the lens adaptors for Nikon-Fuji, but when I switched I sold all my Nikon gear and don’t regret it. I think the way the Fuji system works you’d be better off sticking with the Fuji lenses. Fuji releases these software update every so often too that improves the way their lenses interact with the cameras. Either way, good luck making a decision!

      • My new X-T1 will arrive tomorrow. Adorama had a great sale price, which included the 18-135mm f3.5-5.6 LM OIS WR lens. It didn’t cost much more than buying each used, which I had contemplated.

        I’ll be keeping the D300 with two DX lenses (18-55mm & 55-200mm), as none of them have significant value, to sell. Hubby has expressed interest in using the D300 since I’ll have a new “toy”! I will probably sell my Tokina 11-16mm f2.8 lens, as it has some value, and I doubt hubby will really need it. I would really love to get Fuji’s 16-55mm f2.8 LM WR lens or one of their primes, so if I sell the Tokina, the funds will go to that!

        Excited about a lighter weight system! I’ve had one friend that suggested I look at D750 before jumping off the Nikon train. Too cost prohibitive for me!

        • Nice! That’s so exciting. Have fun setting it up and shooting with it. One thing I did that really helps with shooting is that I set all the directional buttons on the back to be focus points. If you like shooting with focus points, it’s way faster than going into the menu for it, but pretty much all the Fuji’s buttons are customizable so you can set it up however you like. And hey! Who knows, maybe someday you’ll have a D750 AND a Fuji. But, I think you’re going to really love the Fuji and probably never look back. They’re so much fun. 😉

          • Julie Blichmann

            A friend sent me this great tutorial, just in case anyone is interested!

  8. Mel,

    Working on this decision myself. I’m not ready to dive in and completely leave Nikon, but I do have an offer to trade my D800 with a 24-105 Sigma Art Lens for a Very nice Fuji XT-1 with the 18-55 2.8-4 and the 56 1.2. $$$ wise its about an even trade. I will still have a D700. I am definately looking to “lose some weight”. I just need to know I won’t be pixel peeping my new fuji files to death. Did you find yourself doing that? If you had to list the top 1 or 2 things you miss about your Nikon what would they be? Thanks in advance. P.S. I am primarily a wedding and portrait guy.

    • Hi Frank,
      It’s definitely a tough decision! Re: pixel peeping, every once in awhile when I go to do a tight crop with a Fuji I notice it’s not as crisp as the D800 (where you could crop for years and it wouldn’t make a difference). But, to be honest this just makes me a better photographer in the field. I’m always conscious of what I want and going after it, so no lazy shots that I crop in afterward to get something half-decent. It’s never made me want to switch back. What I miss the most? Haha, it’s silly but the dual card slots. Sometimes it freaks me out that the X-T1 only has one, simply for backup and professional reasons. I used to always shoot on two cards at the same time on my D800 in case one had a freak accident or I dropped it in the ocean (or who knows what) before downloading the files. Absolutely nothing has happened so far with my X-T1 files, but I will say that when Fuji recently announced the X-Pro II with dual card slots it had me thinking I wouldn’t mind picking one of those up as a second body or for client shoots where I want to be extra-freaking-sure that I have an automatic backup of the files. I have shot both wedding and portrait work with the X-T1. As expected, clients were totally focused on the emotion and not the pixels. Depending on your shooting style, the Fuji might or might not lend itself well to what you do. Good luck making your decision!

      • Frank Lee Roberts

        Hey Mel,

        It’s been about 2 1/2 months now and I couldn’t be happier. The lenses on the X-T1 are incredible. The only place I think I am less happy than the Nikons is the exposure latitude I had with the D800 full frame images. Other than that. I dont miss a thing. The Entire Fuji Line was designed from the bottom up to be around APS-C sensor. I don’t miss the FF viewfinder nearly as much because the X-T1 viewfinder is beautiful and then all the extra bonuses you get with the ALL digital camera (so to speak) more than make up for any slight shortcomings. I am very happy to have switched over to the X-T1. I still have my Nikon D700, but it its finding itself lonelier and lonelier in the bag. I even picked up an old XP1 so I could have a second X body and I love it to. I’m a now a Fuji Fan Boy. Mel, thanks for the early encouragement.

        • And now the X-T2 is rumoured be out this summer! Curious to see actual specs and price!

          • Frank E Roberts

            Julie, I’m guessing it will be the SLR version of the XP2. You can google a video of the body that was leaked. Fuji was furious.

  9. Julie Blichmann

    ??? I won’t waste my time clicking on your link, as you don’t deserve traffic for such a random and off-topic comment.

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