I know what you’re thinking and no, this is not another article by a pro photographer stating why switching systems has changed his life, upped his game, made life easier and even made him fall in love with photography again. Yes, I am a pro photographer; yes I switched systems but I’m just an ordinary fella with a very particular way of doing photography, with no sponsorship from companies and a limited budget, just like most of us out there.
Recently, I let go my love/hate relationship with the Fujifilm X100T and switched to a different system. Let me tell you a bit of a backstory on why I did the switch and how it happened.
“Using the X100T became like spending time with someone you’re so attracted to but know very little about and then you get to know them and find out you can’t stand their flaws.”
I’m a firm believer that if something isn’t broken, there’s no need to change it. Proof of that is my long-term use of my Nikon D800. On the contrary, For 3 years I owned a Fuji X100T and used it mainly for doing personal work on my spare time: street photography, holidays, the odd event, it even did a bit of Formula 1 and it served me well. I bought it based on size practicality and the comfort of its light weight; the fixed 23mm lens felt second nature; I fell in love with the color profiles, the contrast in the pictures and the dynamic range for such a small sensor. As a turn-off, I never liked the design and the ergonomics but I worked my way around that and was so in love with that camera that I put a personal touch to it thinking I’d never get rid of it… Never say never!
It served its purpose most of the time until I started using it as a second shooter for portraiture and food photography and that love turned into frustration. Not a frustration that you can overcome with creativity but a frustration that led to anger and hate in the camera.
Using the Fujifilm X100T became like spending time with someone you’re so attracted to but know very little about and then you get to know them and find out you can’t stand their flaws. To start with, the 16MP resolution felt super limited for what I demand from my RAW files and ISO settings over 400 gave me so many troubles, this is because I’m so used to the beefy muscle of a 36MP full frame sensor for my pro work, nothing wrong with the Fuji’s crop sensor though but as a personal preference I believe once you’re used to shoot with a full frame, you’re always thinking in full frame.
I started to notice so many flaws in the autofocus on the Fuji that it became a nightmare; the manual focusing ring was a nightmare inside of that nightmare to me. The dials and buttons kept getting in the way because of the way I grab the camera. It wasn’t until I started to use it the way I use my pro gear that I noticed these limitations. Again, as a snapping camera, it’s fantastic!
I spoke to some guys at Fujifilm about these issues a couple of times; first at The Societies convention in London, and a couple of months later at the Photography Show in Birmingham. I just wanted to see if anyone has given similar feedback and how they felt about it. To my surprise, both times they didn’t seem to care about my feedback. Fair enough coming from a no-one but I thought they could listen to their users who spend £900 on a brand new system. They sent me to check out the X Pro 2 straight away.
I gave the X Pro 2 and other models a go and I found the same problems. I just don’t like the way their buttons and dials are designed and placed; so not in tune with my grip.
Anyway, I kept shooting with the little Fuji and in no time Battery life became a freaking joke plus the power switch kept turning on accidentally while keeping the camera on the cam-slinger draining the battery while on train journeys. This happened several times. So at this point, you can imagine my feelings towards such a beautiful camera. I stopped using it because the experience became that of frustration rather than inspiration.
Since the moment the a7 was released, I knew I should have gotten a Sony system. I tried them several times and always impressed me in every way. I did extensive research on what camera to get and again at a convention in London I went to go check out my options and see if the Sony guys give a flying f*ck just like the Fuji guys. To my surprise, their staff was incredibly helpful and patient; They listened to everything I had to say and what was the purpose of getting a new camera and then they picked the a7II and let me play with it for as long as I liked.
“I knew I should have gotten a Sony system in the first place so I did extensive research on what camera to get.”
Why the a7II, I asked. Their explanation was a spot on, step by step solution to all of the above problems including the small size and lightweight. It was my top choice as well so that must have been a good sign.
Weeks later I sold the Fuji, it was painful to see her go but a relief to know I was doing the right thing. Ordered an a7 II with a 35mm pancake lens and took it out on a food photography field test. I stick to what I said earlier, once a full frame shooter, always a full frame shooter. It’s just what works for me and the way I shoot. RAW files are better at the a7II’s 24mp resolution; autofocus works smoothly and has different settings pretty easy to get familiar with, dials and controls are stiff enough so it’s harder to push something by “mistake”, it has that chunky DSLR feel when holding it; it’s small and light but with a bit of mass which I like; battery life is decent and after taking it into kitchens, bars and restaurants, it did what it’s meant to do.
Moral of this story, there was nothing wrong with the system I was using before, as opposed to what other photographers say when switching systems, it wasn’t a matter of the camera itself but a bad decision made by me.
For even more from Xavier, be sure to visit his website.