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I Made The Switch From 5D3 to X-T1- Here’s Why!

It isn’t very often that I switch camera systems. Especially after I’ve spent more than $10,000 of my precious life-sustaining money on crap and gear combined with more time than a grad student would study just to learn how to use it all.

My photography career changed ever since, um… I wanted it to change. Part of that change incorporated some interesting decisions that affected my gear choices. Weird right?

–There’s been a small update to the article regarding an error I was encountering while shooting in continuous high. See the end of the article.

My Switch in Lifestyle

I was adjusting towards a more portable and minimal lifestyle and wanted something that I could bring around without feeling or even looking like paparazzi. I also wanted something that performed just as well as what I had and would give me the control that I wanted when I needed it.

Basically, what I needed was a smaller and cheaper version of a 5D3.

Why I Switched Cameras

Enter the FujiFilm X-T1. There are a lot of differences between the two cameras, and I could see someone saying, “They’re not the same at all!”

Well, the video aspect of the camera is quite a bit different, but that doesn’t weigh heavily for me since I rarely shoot video. The camera turned out to be everything I needed it to be. So this past September, after testing the camera out for myself, I switched over to FujiFilm.

So let me say this, I love Canon, they’ve been great to me, I still own 9 Canon film cameras or so. The 5D Mark III is an amazing camera and has excelled in so many areas that I was looking for earlier. I would definitely welcome another one in my hands in the future, but not as an everyday camera. To me, that camera was the workhorse for the heavy duty work that it was built for: weddings — which I’m choosing to do less often. I’m toning down my photography workload and want to get into more casual shooting.

All was fine and dandy with the 5D3. I didn’t really know what I was missing until I rented the Fujifilm X-T1 and the Fujifilm X-E2 from LensRentals.com. Spending a week with both of those cameras really helped me figure out what was important to me. More about that experience can be found here.

A couple points of comparison that weighed pretty deeply within me are as follows:

1. Image

Image is everything, right? First, the X-T1 looks awesome. It reminds me of my old Canon film cameras– a nice metal body and great aesthetics with new buttons and electronics. It is perfect for me to carry around The Las Vegas Strip, or anywhere else in town without attracting crazy attention. People aren’t staring at me because I have this huge camera with this awesome lens that has a notorious red ring on it… then wanting to jump me.

In all seriousness, it was becoming a bit of a safety concern obnoxiously carrying some amazing and expensive gear around– especially in the Vegas back alleys. Thankfully, this camera makes me look like a hipster, and everyone knows that there’s nothing to gain by jumping a hipster. Consider that sentence as my soft admission of being a slight hipster– that, and I’m poor.

But still, image is everything. The IQ, is really rockin on this camera. For those who don’t speak “camera”, it’s image quality is what I’m talking about. It took what felt like an eternity for mirrorless cameras to have the image quality of a the greater full frame cameras like the 5D Classic, Mark II and Mark III.

The X-T1 debuted with its slim DSLR-like figure and new sensor that boasts amazing performance. Switching over had no losses for me. In fact, there’s a slight gain; I went from 22 megapixels on the 5D3 to 16 megapixels with the X-Trans CMOS II sensor on the X-T1. Number crunchers wouldn’t agree that this is a “gain”, but that megapixel war is over — no matter how many people still believes that it is. The lower amount of megapixels will actually save me some well revered storage space, specifically in archiving. More images fit on the same card, and on my Drobo! I do end up losing some of the cropping ability though, but I rarely crop into a picture by more than 10%.

The lenses that are available for the XT-1 are pretty awesome and tack sharp. My condensed Canon kit got refined down to the 5D3, 24mm 1.4L II, 40mm 2.8 STM and the 85mm 1.2L II after much debate, and I found myself very happy with the XT-1, 23mm 1.4 and 56mm 1.2 for what and how I shoot. These two lenses have been absolutely fantastic for me and have produced some amazing color and contrast. The switch would be useless if there weren’t quality lenses for me out there.

2. Money

I paid some excellent money for the 5D3 and lineup of lenses I accumulated to do what the body was specifically made for: weddings. Since I no longer shoot weddings, I felt like I didn’t need that prerequisite of having it or half of the expensive accessories that one could possibly need. The two cameras are in different classes, one being a workhorse with a heritage like a Toyota Tundra, the other being fancy with cutting edge bells and whistles in a small package kinda like the Scion FRS. I no longer needed the ruggedness of the 5D3 to carry me though rough terrains of chapels and other venues but instead needed something quick and fast, easy to maneuver and cheaper than the 5D3.

The 5D3, at the time of my purchase, was approximately $3400 after tax and the X-T1, roughly $1300– bodies only. Since this Canon camera had great desirability and reliability, much like all Toyota’s, I was able to sell the body for twice the price of the X-T1, allowing me to purchase a nice lens as well as the body. Sell one Tacoma, and potentially get a sports car with upgraded rims, tires, sound system, exhaust, and tinted windows… heck yeah!

Much like Canon, Fujifilm does have two lines of lenses that can accommodate different budgets while still providing some great quality. The better of the lenses have a price range similar to those of the Canon line, but staying around $1,000. This was a considerable factor for me as I like trying out new gear and making sure that I get the gear I need, which often requires multiple lenses.

3. Size and Weight

I ride a supersport motorcycle as my main mode of transportation, although I do have my own modified Jeep Wrangler as a secondary. I used to carry the Canon 5D3 paired with my favorite lens, the EF- 85mm f/1.2L II, all around town in my backpack along with other lenses and gear. The total weight for the 5D3 and 85mm package was about 5 pounds with strap and all that other fun stuff. Five pounds on your back going *cough* the speed limit, hitting bumps isn’t exactly comfortable.

Since it was bigger, much more expensive, it would feel super painful for me and my pocket if either piece of equipment would get damaged from hitting my back– since the combined worth was upwards of $5k. Carrying those two required me to carry a bigger bag than I preferred which made it just a bit more cumbersome on those quick-you’re-going-to-miss-it shots that you stop on the side of the road for. The Fujifilm X-T1 combined with the amazing XF 56mm f/1.2 (85mm field of view equivalent), was just a tad over 2 pounds with strap and such. It basically weighed as much as Canon’s EF 85mm f/1.2L II lens. Someone did mention that I could’ve changed to the Canon 85mm f/1.8 lens, great idea, but still a little bulky and didn’t have as good IQ.

4. Speed and Technology

Upgrading cameras shouldn’t be like upgrading phones. I don’t believe that it’s necessary to grab a new one every two years or less, but I’ll be the first to admit that having the newest technology is rather amusing and kinda fun!

The X-T1 is the first camera to my knowledge that is able to handle the Ultra High Speed bus on newer SDXC cards, called UHS-II. This pushes transfer speeds up towards the highest I’ve seen on a little card! I switched from a 32GB SanDisk UHS-II Extreme Pro card in favor for a 64GB Lexar Professional x2000 UHS-II card due to some write errors I was encountering (see the update at the end of this article). Nevertheless, both cards transfer at ridiculous speeds (again see the update below), which really decreases the time the camera needs to clear the buffer when shooting continuous frames. After using that UHS-II card, I happened to revert back to another SanDisk card, an Ultra II with a cap of 35 MB/s, to test it all I wanted to throw the camera out the window while I waited for the lights to stop flashing. Perhaps I’ve grown impatient, but waiting for the buffer to clear completely took an absolute eternity to accomplish, compared to the 8 seconds or so from amazing card. Given that there can be super fast cards that the 5D3 capable of using, it’s super nice to know that you have ludicrous speed at your fingertips.

Shooting with WiFi is more of a novelty, but still just as helpful and fun to use. I have to say that I did use it a couple random times — sticking the camera out the front window and pointing it back at the rear window to shoot some friends sticking their heads out, and covertly sneaking some ridiculous pictures of my friends being goofy. It also works as a pretty neat remote trigger. But yeah, that’s one thing that I find myself using in fun situations that I wish the 5D3 would have.

The XT-1 also has an electric shutter that is capable of actuating at some ridiculous speeds. This makes it a little bit easier to shoot in the Vegas sun at F/1.2! The technology allows the “shutter” to open and close silently at 1/32000th of a second. Thats a monstrous 4 times faster than the 5D3!

Random Remarks

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The switch has brought a lot of attention to those around me who have seen me shooting with a 5D3 previously. Many have asked why I “downgraded”, but they quickly jumped on board when I told them what I have told you. They get it. It’s easy to see it blend into the change of lifestyle. The camera bag goes everywhere with me now! I wanted to make it easier for me to integrate photography into my life, and this was the first step of doing so. Its nice having something so lightweight and relatively cheap without compromising performance. Would I shoot a wedding with it? Well, yeah, actually, I did shoot one with it already. It wasn’t bad at all. Currently the available lens selection made it a little more difficult, but I had a second shooter anyway. The images turned out great, and my back wasn’t hurting from it as well!

Would I recommend everyday wedding photographers to switch over? Not really, well, perhaps if they had the new zoom lenses, and an extended battery pack– and even then, a hard perhaps. Would I tell mothers and family members who want a great camera to take pictures of their travels, friends, family, life, sidewalks, food, dogs, and other such things besides the occasional shoot? Heck yeah!

For those considering switching over to the X-T1 or similar, I’d really suggest evaluating what you’re currently doing with your current workhorse camera. If you’re finding yourself on the go often and not shooting a whole lot of commercial work, you may want to stay with a DSLR. If you’re finding yourself traveling and wanting a pretty awesome tool to create some amazing quality photos in a small package, you might want to check this awesome mirrorless camera out.

*Thanks to Danette Chappell for letting me use her gear to shoot mine…. and also letting me use her scale… which was super handy.

*Update 04/18/15*

The X-T1 has been a blast for me since I’ve had it but I’ve often come across a “WRITE ERROR” when shooting in Continuous High while using SanDisk’s UHS-II Extreme Pro 280/MB card. I’ve loosely narrowed it down to be an “incompatibility” to term it loosely. My assumption is that the write buffer from the X-T1 isn’t able to write correctly and/or fast enough on SanDisk’s card, so it throws an error. I’ll hopefully get Fujifilm to look into this in the future.

Through the courtesy of Lexar, I now use their x2000 64GB UHS-II Card rated at 300/MB and haven’t ran into the previous error at all in real world situations (basically the last wedding I shot). Also, I ended up testing the cards and how fast they write, and I loosely conclude that it is due to the amazing write speed of this card that is allowing the X-T1 to fly. The comparison of the two cards can be found here.

If you have found this to be interesting, comment below let us know and tell us what you think!

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