Without having planned it as such in advance, 2015 seems to be a year of change. The first and biggest change over the last couple of months is that after many years as a “Nikon photographer”, I have turned in all of my Nikon gear – save for the SB900 flash gun, PocketWizards, a 35mm film body (Nikon FE) and a couple of ancient but superbly sharp manual Nikkor lenses – and chosen to start my camera bag afresh.
To add to the haul of exchange gear to take to the camera shop as part-exchange items, I handed over a small packing case of bits and pieces I’ve collected over the years, including a Mamiya 645, Fuji Instax, Polaroid OneStep, Lubitel 166, Lomo Action Sampler and Fisheye camera, as well as my D7000 and (almost) all of the lenses I have used for it.
The most difficult item to give up was the Sigma 10-20mm lens which Jo gave me as a wedding present. It has has done a sterling job and is my most-used lens of the past seven years: over 15,000 of the 70,000-odd digital images in my archive are from this lens. Starting with a set at Manorbier in south Wales, during our honeymoon, which resulted in one of my all-time favourite shots.
I first started using Nikon gear in 1994 after a few different 35mm film cameras since the mid-1980s. First, a Zenit 11, then an Olympus OM-10, then two Canons – an AE-1 and an EOS 5 – before the Nikon FE. My final 35mm film camera before switching to digital SLRs was a Nikon F-301. Because of the five or six years of owning film Nikons and buying second-hand lenses for them, I stuck with Nikon for my switch to digital cameras. I bought the D70 in 2004 and progressed through the D80 and D7000, using the latter right up until Christmas last year.
However, since buying the delectable little Fujifilm X100 at the beginning of 2012, the Nikon gear has seen less and less use. I’ve come to prefer travelling light over the past two or three years and after photographing at a family wedding and during a short holiday in Yorkshire with just the small camera, I found that I really didn’t want the hassle of transporting myriad heavy equipment when going away any more. Add the fact that the age and heavy use of the newer lenses – some of them bought second-hand – has taken their toll on the level of sharpness at all but one or two apertures, it seemed to be the time to think of starting afresh.
The quality of the X100’s sensor leads to really sharp and wonderfully detailed images, with a huge tonal range meaning that I can get shots like the one below with less recourse to artificial illumination. The addition of the compact WCL-X100 wide-angle converter means that I gained options for changing the angle of view, although the uneven blurring (or “bokeh”) means that its use at wide apertures is restricted.
So: a small camera with the image detail and quality of the X100, with interchangeable lenses, which I could afford and on which I could start a new equipment bag. A simple choice presented itself immediately: either the Sony Alpha 7 – which had the benefit of a full-frame sensor – or the Fujifilm X-T1. The Sony just didn’t feel or look right: the aesthetic of a piece of kit is important to me, and although the images and build quality of the Sony are excellent, the X-T1 is just better looking.
And then I saw Zack Arias’ great video about why I didn’t need a full-frame camera.
And so the choice was made and now my “camera bag” consists of the X100 with its wide-angle convertor, and the X-T1 with the 18-55 f2.8/4 kit lens. That’s it. No big wide-angle, no long zoom lens. Travelling light all the time and looking forward to photography with the combination of superb Fuji image quality and the flexibility of the mid-range zoom. I may add new lenses to the bag from time to time – the 23mm f1.4 is on my radar for the foreseeable future – but for now, I’m going to continue to learn how not to be an SLR photographer any more. The first lesson was on Sunday, when Jo and I went for a drive in Emmental and I took my first few landscape shots with the new camera, including the one at the top of this blog post.