Editor’s Note: This is a syndicated blog post from RivasVS. It is being republished with permission. All words and images are from Chris Mollon and are being used with permission.
Hello, my name is Chris Mollon and I am a photographer dealing with a constant struggle for more gear. Okay, let’s be honest, that last sentence could have been about almost every photographer, simply take out my name, implement theirs and the statement would still true. This is going to be my story about how I found the greatest camera system ever made and why I left it to use something else.
When I started taking photos, I never thought it would be something I would end up so passionate about, let alone something that would become so crucial to be a part of my day that when I don’t shoot, I feel as if I didn’t make the most of my day. I got my first camera in December of 2013. I realized I was able to sign up for a credit line on Amazon.com and when they gave me the credit limit they did and it was enough to fund a camera with a kit lens and also a second lens, I just went for it. My first camera was the Canon EOS Rebel T3i and to this day, I still think it is one of the best cameras for people to start off using. I recommend it quite often when, especially when I’m contacted from aspiring shooters about which camera gear they should get. I learned all the basics on that camera. As we all do, I started off taking photos of everything I could, experimenting with depth of field, learning what the hell an F stop was and wondering why I couldn’t get any motion to freeze with a shutter speed of 1/20th. For a very long time I did things on my own, playing with settings and having no clue what anything did, using the different automatic setting modes and trying to get things right. Then the YouTube research happened. I can honestly say, even now, if it wasn’t for YouTube, I wouldn’t have grown as fast as I did, it’s still a platform I use today.
Around the time of July of 2014 I discovered a guy named Andy Eclov and his work astounded me. The colors and tones and just overall feel of his photos I saw online had me immediately wondering what type of camera he used. After 6 months of intense research and learning I had a good understanding of how to use a camera, but I still was nowhere close to achieving that look. I contacted him and asked him what camera he used, he said a Fujifilm X-E1. Like everyone else who hears the brand of the camera, I thought it was film, so I was a bit discouraged because I knew the process of film and knew I never had the patience or funding for anything like that. He proceeded to tell me that it was a mirrorless camera and explain what mirrorless cameras were, stating all the pros to mirrorless cameras as well as the cons. Hearing of what these cameras could do, it made me wonder why more people didn’t use them. We ended up talking for only about a month or so and yes, I went back to YouTube to gather more information. Watching review after review, (good and bad reviews, not just the ones praising the system sponsored by the companies who make them) and I came to the conclusion that I was going to make the switch.
I bought my Fujifilm X-E1 in September of 2014 and let me tell you right off the bat… I hated it, absolutely hated it. The way it worked was so quirky and different that I had a lot of trouble figuring out how to utilize it to the best I could. It honestly took me a good month to even begin to hate it less. The moment I took the above photo of the man at the magazine stand is when I really fell in love with the camera. It was really one of the first travel excursions as an adult I had ever taken with a camera and the moment I saw the photo come up on the LCD, I realized how powerful this little camera was. I was hooked.
Fast forward to January of 2015, I was now shooting with the X-E1 every day constantly. I’d say I put about 40-50k shutter count on it, I wanted more. I loved that little camera to death but I wanted something else. I came across the X100 series online and didn’t think much of them at first, I just thought they were something on Fuji’s bottom tier of products because you couldn’t change the lens and it looked like you were looking through a little glass box off to the side of the camera. I didn’t have previous knowledge of Rangefinder cameras or at least their body style, so my ignorance was bliss to me at that point. The more I researched about the X100 the more I realized they weren’t bottom tier at all (and neither was its price tag.) I went back to talking to Andy about them and he confirmed how awesome they were. The more and more research I did, the more I wanted one of these little guys. I was able to find a second hand model on Amazon.com, of course purchasing it this way made it slightly cheaper. I moved some money around and grabbed a black X100S. It came in the mail and to say the least, my X-E1 collected some major dust.
The X100S was great. It was my new baby and I loved every moment of using it, but the only problem to me was the lack of lens length options, being that it has a fixed lens of 23mm (35mm FF Eqv.). I missed playing with my different focal lengths, I had 5 different lenses ranging from a fisheye all the way to the XF 56mm, that basically went unused. As tax season approached, I discovered the X-T1. The review on it done by digitalrev left my mind fixed on that camera for days. Days turned into weeks and before I knew it, my taxes were in my hand and I had the ability to purchase the X-T1 body. Being the impuslive person that I am, I took the plunge. I went to the nearest camera store and handed the man the money with no anxiety or doubt in my mind of the purchase and that was that.
I now had a Fujifilm X100S and the Fujifilm X-T1. For my lenses I had the Rokinon 8mm f2.8 II, Rokinon 12mm f2, XF18mm f2, XF 35mm f1.4, and XF 56mm f1.2 all at my disposal. In my mind I now had the perfect setup for literally all and anything I enjoyed shooting. I had my interchangeable options with my X-T1 and my super compact lightweight beast with my X100S. I shot with that setup for the majority of the year, did plenty of traveling and was sincerely loving shooting with my setup.
September came. It came hard. One day I started to not love shooting as much. It was 9 months of constant shooting every single day and I couldn’t tell you why I grew tired of my oh so perfect set up, but I did. It wasn’t a one day decision where I just woke up and said “I don’t like my Fujifilm anymore”, it was a gradual over the entire month of me disliking not only my work, but not having a good time when I was out shooting.
I started looking at the DSLR world again. My eyes were set on the Canon 6D. The low light performance is what got me. Out of all the truly amazing things the Fujifilm system has to offer, where it severely starts to slack is the ISO performance in my opinion. Once the sun set, I was just not able to shoot at night with the clarity I desired without getting into the long exposure arena. I slowly, piece by piece started making the switch and selling my Fuji gear to fund the 6D. Once all was said and done and I had the 6D in my hand with my Sigma 35mm 1.4 Art lens mounted, I was seeing the light again, much less noisy light I might add. I was happy again.
Unfortunately, my impulsiveness was my downfall. While I don’t have many bad things to say about the 6D, I will say I overlooked one MAJOR thing I was losing by switching back to a DSLR. My autofocus system. My precious and amazing autofocus system. For those of you who don’t know, the Fuji X-T1 has up to 77 AF points with not only face detection and tracking, but once it focuses on the face, it then detects eyes in the face zone and focuses on the eyes of a person (with firmware version 4.10.) I love taking portraits over anything else so I utilized this quite often. Well, I sure as hell kissed that goodbye with the 6D…which has..11. 11 AF points, no face detection, no eye detection. I hope you can sense my dismay at this point. I couldn’t believe myself, that the loss of that AF system would have been as crucial to me and the way I had grown accustomed to shooting, didn’t occur at all.
So, at long last, now I am here. I have a Canon 6D, which does the job and I am even thinking about ADDING the Fuji system back to my bag, not replacing like I did before. I’m convinced that a DSLR system and a Fuji mirrorless system in my bag will end this hunger for more, but that’s neither here nor there at this point.
Through all of this story I hope that ultimately you, the reader, will take away that gear doesn’t matter. It’s the photographer. Yes, having a gear journey story has not only given me some knowledge based on experience with other gear for those who are wanting to know about the gear itself and whether they should get it, but ultimately it has caused me a lot of back and forth and I now realize that the gear doesn’t make the photo what it is, that’s the photographers job. It’s your job as the person clicking the shutter button to compose the shot, to create the emotion, to tell the story and to act on the moment. I don’t think any of our gear hunger will ever be fed to remain full, just remember that thankfully, unlike our real hunger as humans, our photographer hunger doesn’t need to be acted on to survive. Just go shoot.