Technology marches on.
Lead, follow, or get out of the way.
All good things must end some day.
Back in August of 2013 on a whim I purchased a small, mirrorless camera with a “kit” lens. It was cute. It was nearly the exact size of my beloved Leica M9. I figured it would be a good carry everywhere camera. Something to take “visual notes” with when I didn’t want to lug my Nikon, or my Leica. Little did I know at that moment my life was changing, for the better.
The Fuji X system has an APS-C sensor. Because of that there is a 1.5 magnification factor with the lenses. So that little 18-55 became the equivalent of a 28-85mm lens on a full frame body. For the way I shoot that’s just about a perfect range.
A few days later a good friend called and asked if I could shoot a job for him. It was a corporate function and would be all documentary. Of course! Documentary is what I like to do best. So I packed my Leica, and my new Fuji XE-1 with 18-55 lens. The assignment was a smashing success. Lots of great people doing great things. The images reflected this and more. To my surprise, when I finished editing the job I found I had selected images I shot with the Fuji by a margin greater than 4:1.
I was amazed. The image quality was outstanding. The auto white balance nailed it, even in horrible mixed light. Straight out of camera the files were better than anything I shot with the Leica. Even at high ISO the files had rich color and tight grain (noise). There was no issue taking this camera to 3200 ISO or higher. Even 6400 was usable! For anyone who doesn’t know the Leica M9 quits at 2500, and for color, you might as well say it ends at 1250 ISO. Even that is a stretch.
The next several weeks I piggy backed assignments, shooting with my Nikon kit, plus the Fuji. Slowly I noticed a trend. I liked the Fuji files better than what I was getting with the Nikon, too. At this point I could see the writing on the wall. I knew, without question, this was going to be my future.
I’ve used cameras with APS-C sensor before with mixed results, mostly bad, but, after using the Fuji XE-1 based on the final files I couldn’t tell it was a cropped sensor. The colors were rich, spot on, good grain (noise) control, and the images were razor sharp. Plus, I could carry the camera around all day without causing any pain at the end of a long day. Based on what I was shooting I could not see any significant advantage to using my heavy full frame DSLR. So I took the plunge and started adding more lenses — 14mm (21mm in full frame); 18mm f/2 (28mm in full frame); 35mm f/1.4 (50mm in full frame); 55-200mm (80-300 in full frame) and a second body, an EX-2. Monday I received their 23mm f/1.4 (35mm in full frame), completing my line up of wide angle lenses.
Is the Fuji X system perfect? No, not at this point. The primary weakness for me is the lack of longer fast glass. Fuji understands this and will be introducing new, faster tele-zoom lenses later this year. Hopefully they’ll also bring out some fast prime lenses as I prefer those on this camera. For now, I use two of my Leica lenses and one Nikon — a 50mm f/1.4 Leica Summilux (75mm on the Fuji) and a 90mm f/2 Leica Summicron (135mm on the Fuji) and a Nikon 180mm f/2.8 (270mm on the Fuji). With the system’s “focus peaking” assist in manual focusing mode this works just fine. There is an advantage of being an ‘old guy’ who still remembers manual focus when it was the norm.
So what’s going to happen with my other systems? Like the Peanuts character Linus I’m keeping my Nikon gear as my security blanket. The fate of my Leica is questionable. Other than the two lenses mentioned above, or the emotional attachment I have with the system, I don’t see the need. And, once Fuji introduces their new X-DSLR, the TX-1, the need for the Nikons maybe be further diminished.
The future is here. And it’s name is FUJI.
Comedian Billy Elmer preforms at Bella Sera’s Hearts & Jokers event February 14th in Canonsburg, PA. Fuji XE-2, 35mm 1.4, ISO 3200.