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