So, last week I booked to have a well-earned day off and travel to London to visit one of my oldest and dearest friends, Geoff. What did we decide to do on this day off?? Take photographs of course!
As crazy as this may sound I was actually extremely excited to spend a day re-discovering the joy of taking photographs just for the hell of it. As much as I love my job, and I do REALLY love my job. The freedom, creativity and enjoyment one gets from taking photographs as a hobby, can become overshadowed by the requirement for a ‘work’ photo shoot to be of a ‘professional’ standard. This day off was my chance to actually relax and have fun with the camera.
So there we were, wandering around the streets of London, clicking away at whatever caught our eye. I had initially intended to bring the full kit along – My recently purchased Canon 5D mkIII, my full range of lenses, tripod, flash heads, the works. Instead I brought just two ‘light’ lenses in my rucksack, and my Macbook, to work in the train there and back.
This is where I get to the point of this blog. Geoff, having rambled on and on for the past few weeks about how amazing the Fuji range of cameras were, brought with him nothing more than a Fuji X20 compact camera.
As the day progressed it became increasing apparent to me how much Geoff was enjoying the freedom of his little Fuji, slung around his neck, while I was busy lugging my Canon kit around, un-zipping and re-zipping it in and out of my camera bag, then slinging it over my shoulder and dragging it on to the next location like a modern day Jacob Marley, shackled to my kit as if it were a punishment for my chosen career.
Now I know I can’t just blame the photo gear for this. A Macbook is not particularly light, especially after over 12 hours of walking. But I would estimate that it’s not far off the weight of the 70-200mm F2.8 image stabilised beast that I chose to leave at the studio. What I also noticed about Geoff’s day compared to mine though, was not just the skip in his step from the lack of backpack, but the beaming smile on his face all day, as he would shoot ‘from-the-hip’, or capture an unsuspecting tourist as he pretended to simply view his image on the back screen, or just tweaking aperture and shutter speed on those beautifully crafted retro dials.
There was one crucial thing I noticed about the difference in our days:- I didn’t want to have my huge, expensive Canon dangling around my neck all day, if not only for fear of it being stolen. So I kept it mostly in my bag. This meant that Geoff was capturing far more candid moments of quirky tourists before I even had chance to get my camera back out of the bag. By the end of the day I had almost given up on the candids, and only got the camera out for ‘special’ photo opportunities.
The next day we both posted our favourite images on Flickr and took great joy in seeing the day from each others perspective. I have to say that the freedom that Geoff had from his ‘compact’ camera really showed in his images. Moreover the biggest thing I noticed was that the Fuji images were every bit as good in quality as from my Canon.
This lead me to make quite a leap of faith. I decided there and then to sell my trusty Canon 5D MkII, which had now become my backup body to the mkIII, and use the money to purchase a Fuji x-e1. This camera still has the gorgeous retro design of the x20, boasts the same incredible sensor as the Fuji x-pro, and costs just £579, including a 18-55mm lens, and a September offer from Fuji for a free 55-200mm lens. That’s almost £700 worth of Fuji glass PLUS a gorgeous ‘compact’ camera to put them on.
My new camera arrived just 2 days later, and I couldn’t wait to use it. With a studio full of the best professional Canon gear available, I couldn’t quite understand my excitement to own this sub-£1000 ‘toy’, but excited I was. The saying goes ‘the best camera is the one you always have with you.’ so until now that had been my iPhone 4s. Great though that take-everywhere camera/phone is, I always knew in my heart that it’s images only looked good on a screen, and would probably never live up to an SLR. I also found the iPhone extremely limiting in it’s fully automatic nature.
Suddenly I had a ‘take-everywhere’ camera that gave me all the control of an SLR, all the quality of an SLR (if all the blog reviews are anything to go by), but in a beautifully crafted retro-compact camera.
Below are my first few images from the x-e1. I know they will never win any awards, but they’re some of the most special images I’ve created for some time. With just my Canon I would never have leapt out of my van on the way home and dodge cow pats to get this shot of the mist. Nor would I have seen the flock of migrating geese that same moment. Most importantly I wouldn’t have captured the moment of my son enjoying a cuddle from his mum, and his bear. My precious Canon workhorse would be safely locked away for the night, and I would’ve considered my shooting finished for the day. These images are special because they are of MY life, and they represent a re-ignition of my passion for taking photographs for fun.
In short, the Fuji has made me excited to take photographs of my own life again. I love its design, it’s size, weight and quality. Those qualities make it my favourite ‘gadget’ since my iPhone, and one I just want to keep with me all the time.
For now I will be keeping my Canon 5D MkIII and associated chunky kit for my professional work, which means that for now I will also continue with the monthly physio treatment to keep my back from giving up. Like many pro photographers with Fuji cameras I may even try it at my next wedding assignment, at the risk of funny looks from the guests. But whatever direction I head with my photography I feel like my journey will at least be captured well.