October 24 marks my second anniversary. It is the day I put away all of my Nikon gear and became a Fuji “shooter”.
No one was more surprised than me. I had initially bought the Fuji X-T1 with a standard kit lens as a backup for my Nikon D800. I wanted a camera I could easily carry around when I needed something lighter and smaller, and that I could fit in my purse.
Then something mind-changing happened nearly four months later. I went on a photography trip to the Oregon coast with my Nikon and my Fuji cameras. I preferred using the Fuji camera and only used the Nikon once. Suddenly my little backup camera was my primary camera. A few months later I was off to photograph San Miguel de Allende. The Nikon stayed home, in its box, ready to be sold.
The main reason I moved on from the Nikon to the Fuji was not because the Fuji was smaller, lighter, or less intimidating to my subjects. It was because I realized I was a better photographer with the Fuji, and that is the point with cameras.
We all approach photography from diverse experiences and with different goals in mind. It is important to buy a camera because it feels right in your hands once you learn to use it, and it organically becomes a conduit for your photographic artistry.
If you have been considering another camera, or if in your gut you know your camera just isn’t working for you, it might be time to rent or borrow other cameras, test them out, and possibly move on to another choice, either as your primary or your back-up camera. Also realize that using a mirrorless camera initially takes getting use to. It will not necessarily react the same as a single lens reflex camera in some situations, and you will be viewing your subject through an electronic viewfinder.
Okay, you ask, so why am I a better photographer these days, with my Fuji cameras?
For starters, my technique has improved:
- The bigger, brighter viewfinder and LCD screen allow me to see my image more clearly. I am better able to frame and compose, particularly when I am on a tripod and using the LCD screen.
- The LCD screen pulls out and can be tilted, making it easier to view my image if I am low to the ground. When I am doing street photography and want candid shots, I can keep the camera low with the screen tilted up.
- Because the camera is lighter and smaller, I handhold it at slower shutter speeds which gives me greater flexibility with the ISO and aperture.
- The focus peaking tool allows me to see everything in focus, so I know before I click the shutter what my depth of field is.
- The electronic viewfinder is “WYSIWYG,” “what you see is what you get”. In other words, I quickly see what the exposure looks like when I look through the viewfinder, making necessary adjustments without always checking a histogram.
- My Fuji cameras perform better in low light than my Nikon cameras did, such that I am shooting at ISO’s higher than I ever dreamed, still maintaining image quality. This opens the door to photography I never thought possible without artificial light.
- The dials are in the right places for me to make quick adjustments.
- The ability to shoot in black and white and Raw at the same time, with in-camera controls and a choice of “film” formats that create remarkable images, has taken my black and white photography to the next level.
- And the list could be continued, and continued….
Improved technique means I have a greater percentage of technically correct images coming out of the camera—greater successes. It also means my mind is free to focus more on the image itself as I am not as concerned about the technical aspect of my photography as before. I have much more enjoyment in the process, and I experiment more often.
So, should everyone run out and buy a mirrorless camera? Or should Nikon shooters change to Canon or vice versa? Of course not. But I think it is important to evaluate, from time to time, your choice of equipment, and to determine in what specific ways it makes you a better photographer. We all know the photographer, not the camera, makes a great image. But it helps to have your artistic vision liberated by the camera you choose to use.