I have been involved with photography as a pastime for nearly 50 years, and I documented the majority of my photographic journey in the Photographers’ Spotlight section of this blog in November 2020 which can be found here.
This isn’t a camera review, nor does it delve into the technicalities, but just my experience of how my photography has changed in the last few months.
Until joining the Great Photography Walks South Wales group in June 2017 (shortly after the group was formed), my photography had been very much a solo affair – I’d never joined a camera club or group, and had never taken my camera out with anyone other than family or friends, so choice of camera system was entirely my own, with carefully researched advice from magazines and camera shops (there was no internet in those days!) I had no idea of the rivalry and banter between users of different camera makes, and thought that photographers just made their choice and that was it.
How naïve I was! I experienced my first “banter” on my second walk with the group, when a very rude man (no longer in the group, I hasten to add) point blank refused to help with a query I had because “no wonder you’ve got a problem, it’s a Canon!” I almost didn’t continue with the group after that occasion, but I’m glad I did, and soon learnt that a (usually) friendly rivalry exists in photography circles between users of different camera brands.
The main two camps in the rivalry were Canon and Nikon, both of which had a well-established following in amateur and professional circles. I was curious to see what the disagreement was about, so looked into the pros and cons of Canon vs. Nikon, and came to the conclusion that there wasn’t sufficient difference in my price range to warrant changing systems completely.
The word “mirrorless” started cropping up in conversation, and some group members had already got mirrorless cameras (usually not Canon or Nikon at the time), so I had the opportunity to look at these cameras, and peer through the viewfinder, but I wasn’t too impressed – the viewfinder images looked small, over bright, laggy, and seemed to bear little resemblance to the “real” view you saw through an optical viewfinder. So mirrorless was a non-starter as far as I was concerned.
Fujifilm was a brand that was mentioned more and more in the group. Having cut my photography teeth on film, I was aware of Fujifilm’s record on film technology (although I must admit, I’d never used their film myself), so I was interested in what they had to offer in the way of digital cameras. The first thing that I noticed when having a look at Mark’s Fujifilm X-T20 was the retro look, with real dials on the top, silver finish, and an overall look of a film camera. Having proper adjustment dials was a plus for me, with instant adjustment of ISO and shutter speed, and a proper aperture ring (on some lenses) taking me right back to me early days with “proper” film cameras. I liked Fujifilm’s emphasis on film simulations too, not so much because I wanted to make my photos look like poorly processed vintage film, but because the editing process I usually apply in the computer to raw files could perhaps be transferred to the camera, meaning I could join the ranks of those who boast “Straight Out Of Camera” when publishing their shots!
I was still undecided after having a little play with the X-T20 – although an improvement on the earlier mirrorless cameras I’d tried, the electronic viewfinder was a bit small, and still comparatively jerky compared with the optical viewfinder of a DSLR. The camera felt right though, with ergonomics more like a film camera, but it was enough for me to decide that I would probably choose Fujifilm as my brand, so I decided to bide my time to see what improvements would appear in later versions in a similar price range. Those improvements came with the X-T3 – again thanks to Mark for letting me have a closer look at the one he’d just bought. A bit out of my price range though, but thanks to MPB photographic brokers, I traded my Canon gear in for a second-hand X-T3 with two Fujifilm zoom lenses to start me off, the 15-45mm and the 50-230mm. A pleasant surprise came with the camera – although second-hand, it turned out to be almost brand new, with a shutter count of around 35.
After five months with the camera, how have I found it? Excellent in all respects! It took a couple of outings with it to get used to the electronic viewfinder – it was very clear, bright and larger than in the earlier cameras, but the experience still felt a bit “detached” from reality. That didn’t last though, and it now feels odd looking through an optical viewfinder on a DSLR. Being able to see the image more or less as the finished product will look means that much less post-processing is necessary. Being able to see my settings on proper dials rather than having to navigate through on-screen menus feels more natural to me, even after years of digital photography. Any regrets? Probably the choice of lenses – although both lenses are very capable and were within my price range, I miss the 10mm extent that I had with the 10-20mm Sigma lens on my Canon, but I’m getting used to it!
I’ve not yet ventured into film simulations (or “recipes”), but that’s a resolution for 2022. All in all, I’m not at all disappointed with my latest move and, so far, no-one’s said “no wonder you’ve got a problem – it’s a Fujifilm!”
Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year, and may all your presents be Fujifilm!
Mike Winson, December 2021