Designs on Mirrorless, Part 2

In the previous article, I’d outlined the main reasons I was considering mirrorless (weight and constraint) and exposed the cameras I am currently researching, namely the Fujifilm X-T20, the X-E3 and the X100F. Part two is trying to articulate what I see, feel and want in a camera and matches that to the three models pre-selected.

As an aside, I’m not specifically limited to Fujifilm, but I haven’t as yet crossed other brands’ models that give me the same feeling. Maybe a new Canon announcement might change that, who knows?

I part 1 I was expressing some of the feelings I had that lead to the decision to pack lightly for my holidays. I spent a week in the Alps in a wonderful ski resort called Vaujany taking advantage of the activities offered during the summer months. If you’ve not been to the Alps in the summer, it’s something you should probably add to your bucket list. The scenery is majestic, the possibilities endless for amusement — mountain biking, hiking, eating, drinking, visiting … It’s got it all.

I ended up doing exactly what I hoped I would. Using the D7200 exclusively with the 35mm f/1.8. I found the photos I produced, better in many ways. The composition was better as I had to think about how to place all elements in the frame, something that I wouldn’t have done before, automatically zooming in on the point of interest. Now the point of interest was neatly placed, positioned and integrated as a frame around it, bringing better attention to the subject.

It made me think of the near and far background in a much more creative way, again something I generally ignore as long as the subject was in focus and pretty much in the frame.

Photo by Matthew Cowen – D7200 – 35mm – f/9 1/125s – Minature Effect in the camera

Photo by Matthew Cowen – D7200 – 35mm – f/11 – 1/160s

The setup also gave me a better idea of a mirrorless setup, with a smaller camera in hand, always, ready to shoot anything that caught my eye. I’d recently purchased a Peak Design Cuff camera wrist strap which made the setup even more functional. By stripping out all of the accessories, add-ons (yes, I’ve gone through the grip thing, the sling thing etc.) made the setup readier for the moment. It was better because it was always there, ready, no messing, no fidgeting.

The Fujifilm X-T20

The X-T20 looks like a great camera and after trying it hands-on in a shop in London it certainly appealed to me. But one thought came to mind that I just couldn’t get out of my head. Although it is smaller, it is essentially a cut-down version of a DSLR. The possibilities and temptations to add accessory after accessory, to add, change and generally fiddle with lenses are the same. The choices are limited compared to the Nikon’s I’m used to, with lenses available from not only Nikon but several others too.

I get the feeling I’ll fall back into the rabbit hole in a matter of months, wanting to “upgrade” the experience, possibly even tempting me to upgrade the camera body itself. I think I ought to step away from that for my own good.

The camera body itself is very high quality and I instantly liked it coming from my previous Nikons, but the jumping out of the frying pan into the fire feeling put a hold on me. I know perfectly, why I was drawn to this camera, but that’s precisely what I’m trying to get away from.

The Fujifilm X-E3

The X-E3 goes further towards where I’m going and I really like this camera as it offers pretty much everything I want in its size, build quality etc. Being a hybrid with the interchangeable lens though, put it pretty much in the same camp as the X-T20.

Like the X-T20, I had a play around with it in the the shop in London and felt that, like its sibling, it was very much a camera of quality, with impressive results from such small body. One thing that I cameo appreciate was the Rangefinder design. Being a DSLR owner for some years, I hadn’t played with a camera with that design and despite it taking a little to get used to, I really liked it. It kind of allowed the camera to get out of the way giving you a more direct relationship with the subject being photographed. The DSLRs I’ve used just seem to be in between the subject and I, reminding me that it is it in control. I used to like that, but now I don’t. Which in turn makes me use the Nikon less and less.

It was a step towards the constraint I was looking for, much more so than the X-T20, but ultimately not enough I feel.

The Fujifilm X100F

To be completely honest, the X100F didn’t figure in the list of cameras I was researching when I wrote part 1 on the plane. I added it subsequently before posting to give coherence to part 2 ! So what happened in-between writing part 1 and now as I write part 2 back at home in my office ?

During my holiday stay in the Alps, a group of us ventured out to see the highest point on Alpe D’Huez, Pic Blanc. At 3300m accessible via cable car, it was ideal for the group and the kids to take a look at the glacier. The cable car goes from 2700m, near the Alpe D’Huez resort up to the mountain top at 3300m, where experienced skiers descend back downtime mountain in winter and where questionably motivated mountain bikers do the same !

After taking in the views, which are exceptional, cable car-ing it back down to 2700m, I decided to walk the 4à minute or so path, up to 2800m where a more direct cable car would take me back to Vaujany. The alternative route involved 5 cable car routes, this way was 2. Plus it was an opportunity to take some more photos from a different perspective.

Upon reaching the cable car station, I became aware that it was around lunchtime, and thus had to wait for the service to start again at 2:30pm meaning I had a 50 minute wait. Whilst waiting, two couples walked up to the station and we exchanged pleasantries and I informed them of the wait. But, by sheer chance, one of them was a professional photographer by trade and he’d mentioned something about my Nikon to help me. Immediately I started chatting with him about it and the thoughts I was having about mirrorless.

His wife had his X100S around her neck (I hadn’t seen it yet) and he asked her to hand it to me so I could get a feel for it. I instantly fell in love with it. The design, the look, the feeling, the constraint, everything. It was all that I was looking for in a camera. And like the X-E3, the Rangefinder design just sucks you into the photo and not the equipment.

He told me that it was his go-to camera, something that surprised me as he’d told me that he’d used Nikon, Canon, Hasselblad, Leica, you name it. And each time he felt the optics and the immediacy of the X100F where just second to none. His advice to me – don’t hesitate, you won’t regret it.

Article image by Matthew Cowen – D7200 – 35mm – f/2.5 – 1/2500s