I've ranted about the huge-ness of DSLR cameras since 2004 when I bought my first one. In personal work I've always gravitated towards 35mm systems of one sort or another for the most part due to their size and impact — or lack of impact on people I work with. I've never wanted, used, or even cared much about autofocus, frame-rate, ultimate speed, and all the other advancements 35mm systems and by extension DLSR cameras have piled on at an ever increasing rate.
Of course I care about a few things that in some way correlate or overlap a few "improvements" but in many ways it's not because I needed any of it in the first place. More because of things like auto-focus replacing great viewfinders and the ability to see what's in focus. Speed? Well I do care if a camera doesn't feel fluid and get's in my way.
I've written on more than a few occasions about experiments and process and getting a handle on the best way to get to the point when working on the black/white project where the camera disappears. There are a lot of factors at play here. A lot of them having nothing to do with cameras, lenses, or gear but all other things being equal I want a camera that's not on the liability side of that equation. With the exception of my on again, off again dalliances with the Fuji X100 cameras the XT-1 fits the bill as one of the most intimate cameras I've ever used.
I've scattered random images of Trica throughout the post as a demonstration as much as one could possibly demonstrate something so intangible and also something so hard to pin-down. What are some of those hard to pin-down factors that might actually be somewhat quantifiable?
- Small, this is a pretty big one. Hard to say just how big is too big but definitely a factor.
- Just as important as the camera size is lens size. huge lenses are just as bad or worse than huge cameras.
- Not just the size but the overall appearance, demeanor, and persona seems to count. Not sure about color at least in terms of the typical black vs. black and silver but there are schools of thought out there on this. Just not anything I've ever really seen a big difference with that I can say for sure.
- Quiet is always better than loud but there's more to it than just that.
The XT-1 checks all of those things you can compare in some quantifiable way but like the last point about being quiet, there's more to it. There's something about the entire package that makes it an intimate camera to work with. While we're discussing how quiet, with how close I work it's not like there's no sound, even with the electronic shutter there's some sound. It's the character of the sound in many cases. Especially when working close. All of the included shots were made at either 18mm or 23mm. That's close if you take a look at the framing.
Sure the electronic shutter or a camera with a leaf shutter like the X100 cameras my not be audible at slightly further distances or with a lot more ambient noise but that's a different subject than what I'm discussing here. The Fuji (with the exceptions of noises made by a few Fujinon lenses) has an auditory character that is in the category of intimate.
I'll give an example that not so many of you may be familiar with but should serve. I've always considered my Hasselblad 500 series film cameras as intimate cameras. They are smaller than many full-frame DSLR rigs but not small. They are certainly not quiet cameras — they have a distinctive sound that you can tell from a mile away. Compare that with my brief relationship with the Contax G system. I hated that camera because of the sounds it made. Certainly much quieter in measurement than my Hasselblad 503 and possibly similar or quieter than my Leica M cameras but not intimate at all. Downright harsh.
I've grown to love the XT-1 and due to they way all of the boxes that can be checked off will be using it for quite a while. There's more to it than just those checkboxes though in terms of intimacy. The entire character of the camera just works in this category. Well it does as long as you don't go mounting a gigantic lens like the new 2.8 pro zooms on the end of it. The size, the way it looks, the way it sounds. All of it works in the intimate department.
I could continue to jamb frame after frame into this post but there's way too many already. I know it's impossible to prove or even really demonstrate what I'm talking about here since there are so many many factors at work but just consider this for a moment…
I work with a lot of people on the black/white project. Many of which I don't know that well, or didn't when I started. The vast majority have never done anything remotely similar to what we're trying to capture in photographs for the project. These images I've included are from the very first time I ever met Trica let alone made pictures with her. I can tell you beyond any doubt that the XT-1 and lenses I chose to use got out of the way and were less intrusive than any camera in recent memory with the exception of the X100.
Camera was obviously the Fuji XT-1. All included images were made with the 18-55mm XF Zoom at either 18mm or 23mm settings. Post processing was VSCO FILM06 BW400CN applied on import to LR CC.